This past Friday, my school attended a mini-conference at another school. When I arrived, I was amazed to find out that my two sessions had been pre-selected for me. I didn’t quite know what to think. As a co-organizer of edcamp Philly, an unconference, it was mind-blowing to have no choice in what I was to learn that day. Someone on Twitter responded to my tweet about it reminding me that what I was experiencing is what most students experience on a daily basis.
I, of course, did not attend the session I was assigned, but rather attended one on creativity that appealed more to me and my teaching practices.
At lunch, I admitted to that I had not attended the Classroom Management session that I had been pre-registered for. I was told that the whole staff was supposed to attend that session to get information on how we can better handle management at the school. From what I heard about the session, it was interesting, but pretty worthless as a catalyst for change. I mentioned that perhaps it would be better if we, as a staff, came together to discuss what works in our classrooms and to give each other advice for issues we were having. I was met with silence.
I immediately tweeted: “I think I need to be a principal.”
I see the potential in the young teachers around me (they are nearly all under 30, many under 25), but I see it squandered on test prep and a ‘teaching to the test’ mindset that crushes creativity in not just the students, but also the staff.
I had a lot of kind responses to my tweet telling me to ‘go for it,’ but truly, I don’t want to be ‘in charge.’ In fact, I believe that the time of someone being ‘in charge’ is on the way out. This is apparent through the existence of the site Teachers in Charge and idea #2 on this thought-provoking post by blogger (and Twitter colleague) Kelly Tenkely which helped breed the idea of a Twitter Academy of teachers who are innovative and dedicated to learner-centered, progressive education.
Don’t get me wrong. My school has a great staff that works hard and works together. Our admins stress that we are a team.
My experience planning edcamp proved that great things can be accomplished without anyone being ‘in charge.’ Teaching is, by nature, a collaborative effort. Schools can and should be run by teachers who share the responsibility for educating students and hold each other accountable much like an athletic team.
I don’t want to be in charge, but I DO want to be part of a leadership team that makes decisions together, sets goals together and takes equal responsibility for educating their students.
To those who would say, “start a charter school,” as the Teachers in Charge site suggests, I would argue that we need to stop thinking of teacher-run schools as unique and we need to start moving in that direction. As a recent article on Finnish schools describes, quoting a member of an international review team, teachers need to be empowered. “Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. ‘In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs.’”
Let’s make it a reality.